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Last Updated

20 Jan 2003

Source: New York Times, January 20, 2003

Study Urges More Action to Cut Risks From Weapons Stockpiles


The United States, Russia and Europe should do far more to reduce the urgent and "grave proliferation risks" from their remaining stockpiles of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, concludes a new report endorsed by a consortium of influential private research centers.

Specifically, the report concludes, the United States and its European allies must begin treating Russia as a partner in such efforts rather than as a strategic charity case.

For its part, the report says, Russia must become more open and remove obstacles to cooperation to prevent the world's most lethal arms and technology from spreading to rogue states and terrorist groups.

The four-volume report was conceived as one of the most comprehensive public assessments of a decade of American and allied efforts to help Russia secure its strategic arms stockpiles and to reduce the dangers posed by its cold war legacies of vast unconventional arms stockpiles and personnel.

The three-year study, "Protecting Against the Spread of Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons," has been endorsed by a group of 15 research organizations in the United States, Europe, Russia and Japan. It was financed by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the Washington foundation started by Ted Turner and Sam Nunn, a former Democratic senator from Georgia.

The first volume was written by Robert J. Einhorn and Michele A. Flournoy, former senior Clinton administration arms control and defense specialists now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. It is to be released today in London at a conference about efforts to secure and reduce stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. A copy was provided to The New York Times in advance.

At a summit meeting in Canada last June, the major industrial powers and Russia the Group of 8 agreed to spend $20 billion over the next 10 years to help Russia reduce the threat posed by its stockpiles.

The report notes that given the danger that these materials might be acquired by rogue states of terrorists, these nations should consider $20 billion a "floor" rather than a ceiling. It also recommends that nations "may wish to waive debt payments" in exchange for additional spending by Russia on such projects.

The study highlights progress made with a $7 billion investment in these efforts by the United States, much of it under Cooperative Threat Reduction programs started by legislation in the early 1990's sponsored by Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, now Foreign Relations Committee chairman, and Mr. Nunn.

In the past decade, the report notes, nuclear materials have been removed from Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus. The world's largest anthrax production facility at Stepnogorsk, Kazakhstan, was dismantled.

The first prototype chemical weapons destruction plant in Russia is ready to operate, and more than 50,000 scientists who once worked in nuclear, biological and chemical weapons facilities have received aid.

Despite such steps, the report asserts that more ambitious measures are needed. The study found, for instance, that basic security upgrades had been completed at "facilities containing only 46 percent of the approximately 603 metric tons of Russia's weapons-usable nuclear materials" identified by the United States Department of Energy.

"Virtually none" of Russia's plutonium and "less than one-seventh" of its highly enriched uranium has been rendered unusable for nuclear weapons, the report says. "The same is true for the United States," it says.

The report emphasizes the continuing threat posed by Russia's biological stockpiles, about 20 major former Soviet facilities and at least two dozen smaller institutions.

"Thousands of weapons scientists and workers are still unemployed or underemployed," the report says, and susceptible to lucrative offers of work from countries that could have secret germ weapons programs.

Many Bush administration officials say Russia should not benefit from American assistance, given its reluctance to open facilities suspected of illicit arms research. Officials have also protested Russian aid to Iran's nuclear program. But the report concludes that helping Russia secure and eliminate unconventional weapons stockpiles is too important to be held hostage to such concerns.